The Garden in June

The weather has turned hot very quickly since summer has officially begun. We are seeing highs in the 90sF.

The past week has been a busy time for planting in the garden. I’ve added herbs to the herb garden area and to some containers. The green house is now empty for the first time since early spring. It is too hot in there now for things to do well.

The large garden box (D) is empty except for some marigolds planted around the edge. That box will remain fallow this year. It has never been fallow so needs a season of rest.

The law looks better than it ever has. I have learned that despite advice from the water conservation interests in this heat one must water the lawn at least every other day to keep it green and lush. It is a small lawn so I do not feel so badly about the water usage.

I hand water the vegetables, containers and herbs. I usually water containers daily in this heat and vegetables can usually do fine with water every other day or every third day.

Everything is doing well. The latest basil plants from the green house are a bit pale but are already deepening in color with more direct sun in the box.

We have been eating the Boston lettuce, it is still tender and very flavorful. You just cannot get that flavor from store bought produce.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Tis’ a Wet Spring

It has been a cooler and wetter spring this year than normal. The average temperature for today in Albany is 72F. the high was 60F. This has been typical this spring.

Upside

There have been advantages to this cool weather. I can still pull the wild onions that litter my perennial beds out by hand. The mostly come out whole. By this time of year they usually snap off because the ground is too dry. Other weeds also pull out more easily except of course dandelions which manage to cling to the soil no matter what the condition.

I did have to water the lawn and veggies for the first week or of June so but for the past four days the rain has done that for me. Rain provides a better soaking than irrigation does and there is something about rain water that promotes growth better than city water. In part it may be the chlorine and fluoride that come with city water.

My cool loving lettuce loves this weather. No threat of bolting in this cool cloudy weather.

Downside

Weeds also love this weather. Weed seeds that might not sprout at this point are and growing weeds are thriving. I continue to battle them (pull them) but cannot keep up with the entire yard.

My sun loving plants, especially the tomatoes, do not love this weather. Their growth is slowed and setting fruit is not happening as yet.

There are fewer insects around, especially bees, which means less pollination. On the other hand the water sitting about in puddles and containers will produce more mosquitoes.

It is likely that later this month or for sure in July the heat will return and things will return more to normal. That is my expectation anyway. I am not complaining. Cool or hot each condition has its advantages and disadvantages. For now anyway the garden looks happy and all is well.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

No-till Gardening

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Box B

Normally every spring I till up my garden beds. I’ve read in various books over the years that this is a good thing to do as it mixes levels of soil to bring nutrients to the surface, aerates the soil to improve drainage and bring air to the area where roots need it.

I’ve also read about the advantages of not tilling the ground, so called no-till gardening. Various sources also call this lasagna gardening because it involves creating layers of mulch, compost, organic matter, etc. and then to plant on these layers. All methods of gardening have their advantages and disadvantages and one site discusses some disadvantages of lasagna gardening.

In his book, Weedless Gardening, Lee Reich advocates a form of no-till gardening. He does not advocate true lasagna style gardening which involves multiple layers created at once. Reich’s reasoning is that in nature the ground is not tilled. Mother nature naturally layers thin applications of organic matter on the ground each fall as leaves and plants dies and fall down. They rot into the ground adding all the benefits of organic matter without disturbing soil structure.

Reich writes that there is much less work involved with no-till gardening. There is no backbreaking labor in the fall or spring to turn over the soil and then till it. He suggests you just add a couple inches of high quality compost to the top of the soil each year and let nature do its work.

He cautions that you prevent soil compaction by avoiding walking on planting beds. Walking and wheel barrows are confined to pathways between the beds.

In addition to better soil structure he suggests that there are fewer weeds because weed seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate each year from tilling.

I decided to give this method a try this year. I could not fully use it on my garden boxes because I rebuilt them and had to add about 4-6 inches of soil and compost to build them up. I then raked this in well along with organic fertilizer. I did not till the boxes so to some extent I followed this method. I am also using his method in flower beds and beds that contain shrubs.

Next year I will follow the method to the vegetable beds. I will just add a couple inches of compost and see how things go.

I must admit it is a lot less work and if Reich’s theory is sound it may create healthier soil that is more natural in its structure. When you consider the ample flora that nature supports using this method it seems to make sense.

This is one of the things I love about gardening. Learning new approaches and trying them out.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Spring Makeover

I’ve been short on writing and long on work in the garden of later. In the past week I replaced the old weather-beaten cedar fence on the east side of the vegetable garden. You will notice that fence in the background of the photos here is all new cedar fencing.

Next I replaced all the garden boxes as the old ones were over ten years’ old and rotting away. The new ones are made of treated lumber and should last more than a decade. I also added new soil and compost to top them off. For compost I used an old rotted bail of Canadian moss. Finally, I dressed it all with organic fertilizer.

I then got some starts and you can see them planted: in Box A four tomato plants; in Box B some marigolds, lettuce and pepper plants along with one sunflower; in Box C just two marigolds as yet and Box D is yet empty.

I should mention that I tore the asparagus out of Box C. We just were not getting enough out of that little plot to justify the usage of that space and we were not eating much asparagus anyway. Now it is available for other things. (hover over photo for box letter.)

The starts in the greenhouse are still there and will need to be transplanted soon into these boxes.

Another garden season off and running. Because of weather it is starting a bit late this year but if the weather holds reasonably well the plants should catch up soon.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Small Gardens

Here is a video with some great tips on gardening in small spaces.

Yes, I’ve neglected the blog for some time. I have been busy of course but I guess I lost inspiration to write for a while. Of late I’ve been pulling lot of weeds. One blessing with all this rain is that the weeds come free easily, even most of the wild onions pull out easily. So I am taking advantage of this window of opportunity to battle the weeds and make some headway.

Hope you enjoy the video

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Seeds and Leeks

Yesterday I planted some seeds in the green house. I had to make up so new planting medium using a mixture of potting soil and vermiculate. I planted two varieties of broccoli and one of cauliflower. If they germinate they should be ready to put in the garden by mid-May. I will be adding more soon.

I am frequently surprised how warm it gets in the greenhouse. The last day we had sun out it rose to 100 F +. I need to get some venting in there. I have a roof vent but it is not enough.

I also did some weeding. Weeded the garden boxes fully and the asparagus bed.

Speaking of planting I hope to get some leeks in the garden this year. Need to get them in soon. Here is a video on some things to know about leeks.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Spring is Here!

Today is the official beginning of spring this year. The daffodils have been up. The sun was out yesterday (though it is to rain today and all week) and the high yesterday was forecast at 50F. It was cold yesterday morning though with a thin layer of ice on the windshield of the car.

On Friday my box of seeds arrived from Territorial Seed. My plan was to plant some of them in the greenhouse today to get started on my “starts”. If the warmth continues I may be able to plant some cool weather plants next weekend.

I got busy with visits from family and other things so the planting will have to wait until later in the week.

A soil test kit also arrived with the seeds so I hope to test the garden soil today to see what is deficient. Then I can amend as needed. With no cover crops this year my garden boxes have been pounded with rain all winter and we’ve had a lot of rain. I expect I will have to dig the garden boxes to loosen the soil.

I am persuaded by several sources that using the electric tiller is not necessary or an advantage. I will let the worms do the tilling as discussed in this Fine Gardening article.

My best laid plans to plant yesterday failed but I will get those seeds started soon – hopefully today.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy